Tag Archives: Jay Caspian Kang

Jay Caspian Kang’s “The Dead Do Not Improve”

Squatting somewhere in this big old Internet of ours is something that John Warnerof The  Funny Man fame—once wrote or said or was quoted as saying about writing. I’m obviously paraphrasing here, but it was a philosophical thing about how he writes or how people should write. Basically, write about what you like and know, don’t be afraid of your writing overflowing with those things, as that’s what you know best, what will keep you interested or invested, etc. I’m sure I’m leaving some of the depth out of it—Googling write what you like John Warner is turning up like less than nothing—but I think I’ve captured the gist.

And I think that gist’s especially relevant to Jay Caspian Kang’s The Dead Do Not Improve, a sprawling, funny, enthralling, maddening, sloppy, universally readable mess of a debut novel that should and likely will be talked about a lot for the rest of 2012. Kang seems to follow Warner’s advice as far as content goes. The Dead Do Not Improve is stuffed with (what I have confirmed to be via his own biography and sportswriting and what I just assume to be) Kang’s general interests, which include hip-hop, film, advanced baseball statistics, Korean identity, hardcore pornography, and though I’m probably missing a few I’ll just wrap it up with the Internet as a broad thing. More than the plot or prose, Kang’s interests are what drive The Dead Do Not Improve, so whether or not you like the novel—and I do, albeit with some reservations—seems totally contingent on your interest in or knowledge of these things.

Our protagonist and sometime narrator Phillip Kim is an MFA-holding, unpublished, and generally unsavory young man in a half-gentrified area of San Francisco. When his neighbor Dolores—who Kim calls “baby molester” for reasons far less ghastly than you’d imagine but far too unimportant to really get into here—is killed by stray bullets, his world is shaken, and he soon finds himself caught in a struggle between Internet puritans and hardcore pornographers. Continue reading

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Our August Review Previewganza

Who likes August? For real. It’s hot all the time—so hot that cheese will melt in your fridge and your skin will stick to your subway seat. There are no paid holidays at any workplace in America. Severe thunderstorms go on vacation. The White Sox go into their annual tailspin. It’s a horrible time to be alive.

And by way of the Internet’s powers of inquisition, I found a handy-dandy guide to those awful thirty days, courtesy of that venerable American institution Holidayinsights.com. According to the good people at HI—especially my man “Dirty Dozen” Dave Poluyanskis in content creation, what up boyyyy!?—August is the following official (read: not official) months (listed in descending order of huh): National Catfish Month (delicious), National Eye Exam Month (I’ve had 20/20 my whole life; stop extorting me), National Golf Month (all right, whatever), National Picnic Month (sweaty potato salad), Peach Month (Earth’s worst fruit, but I can see it), Water Quality Month (WHERE IS THE CONCERN IN OCTOBER?!), Family Fun Month (…), Romance Awareness Month (cue twenty-four-hour loop of MTV’s “Undressed”), and my personal favorite: Admit You’re Happy Month (you love that sweater, faker).

So to keep you from participating in America’s annual mass suicide—the 2012 iteration being Friday August 24 at Danville’s David S. Palmer Arena—DBC’s going to roll out a whole bunch of reviews. Continue reading

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Five Debuts to Watch

In a way, 2011 was the year of the debut: Chad Harbach, Karen Russell, Teju Cole, and Téa Obreht enchanted with first-time efforts. Though 2012 hasn’t offered any debuts on the literary level of Open City, or any with the blistering industry-wide hype to match The Art of Fielding, the second-half of this year will feature many notable debuts that you’ll be hearing a lot about—some of which we’re lucky enough to review.

Here are five to watch.

Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles (Random House, June 26)
The year’s representative from the Earth-Shattering Hype category might be this debut from Walker, a former editor at Simon & Schuster. The Age of Miracles has a bold premise: the earth has, inexplicably, started to slow. And all the while the eleven-year-old Julia must find a way to cope while being a person with those other problems—you know, the ones that don’t have an effect on the earth’s rotation, like losing friends or watching her family disintegrate. Early reviews have been stunningly positive, with Publisher’s Weekly calling it a “triumph of vision, language, and terrifying momentum.” Continue reading

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